Locals rally to raise funds for the Royal Children’s

By Benalla Ensign

A promise to his dying niece led Neil Lonie to become the driving force behind a fundraising project for the Royal Children’s Hospital and this year he believes will be the biggest in the event’s 11-year history.

On Saturday, tens of thousands of dollars worth of goods will go under the hammer at Dookie Recreation Reserve, coupled with food stalls, rides, music and a wealth of family entertainment.

Mr Lonie’s niece, Lisa Sheridan, succumbed to a virus that damaged her heart in 2008.

‘‘I lost my niece in the Royal Children’s Hospital about 11 years ago,’’ Mr Lonie said. ‘‘On her death bed I promised her that I was going to do this every year for the other sick kids.’’

Since then, the St James resident has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars and was last year awarded Moira Shire Council’s Citizen of the Year.

And Mr Lonie said this year’s effort would be the biggest ever with people from all over joining forces for the annual Royal Children’s Hospital Fun Day and Auction. Dookie Recreation Reserve, just down the road from where Lisa grew up, will host this year’s event and $25000 worth of auction goods have already come in.

A Dustin Martin-signed Richmond jumper and boxing glove autographed by former WBO welterweight champion Jeff Horn are two of the big-ticket items.

Auctioneer Paul Durden from Kevin Hicks Real Estate said there would be much more on offer.

‘‘There’s vouchers. There’s furniture. There’s kids’ toys — there’s just about something for everyone,’’ Mr Durden said.

Everything going into the day, including the time of those running the event, is being donated to maximise the amount of money to be presented to the Royal Children’s Hospital Good Friday Appeal.

Father and son Allan and Peter Shields said it was a privilege to be helping Mr Lonie on his quest to support the hospital.

‘‘All the food’s donated, so even if someone comes along and just has a burger for $3 — all of that goes to the Royal Children’s,’’ Allan Shields said. ‘‘Everyone’s donating their time. It’s going to be a fantastic day.’’

Mr Lonie said in its first year the event raised $10000, while last year that figure had grown to $52000.

With the addition of lamb and cattle drives and pub-based fundraisers, about $23000 is already banked with organisers hoping this Saturday’s event will smash last year’s record.

— Myles Peterson

●The 11th Royal Children’s Hospital Fun Day and Auction starts at Dookie Recreation Reserve on Saturday at 2pm. The auction begins at 3pm.

●For more information on how to participate or donate, phone Royal Children’s Hospital area manager Neil Lonie on 0427644366.